CBS Local– A new study has found that chimpanzees have the ability to pass down knowledge from generation to generation, something that was previously thought to be a uniquely human trait.

The research, done by primatologists at the University of St. Andrews, found that on top of the naturally occurring “animal culture”, which passes down migratory routes and such, chimpanzees are able to use “cumulative culture”. Cumulative culture means that the chimps can build on previously known knowledge.

“Perhaps the most fundamental thing this study shows is that a group of chimpanzees can appear more intelligent than any single individual – together they can create more advanced steps in cultural evolution,” said Andrew Whiten, an author on the study, via

The experiment was such that the animals needed to figure out how to sip juice through complex straws. The researchers taught one chimp how to use them, then the others sat and watched from the first one.

“Our chimpanzees were capable of learning increasingly complex behaviors by observing knowledgeable individuals,” said Gillian Vale, an author on the study. “This and other recent studies are beginning to show that some non-human animals are better equipped to improve the complexity of their cultural behaviors over time than was previously believed.”


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